Governor Cuomo announced the successful completion of another round of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections intended to improve public safety and reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of fossil fuels across New York. State and federal teams recently examined 541 crude oil tank cars, approximately 207 miles of track, and 80 switches. The inquiry uncovered four critical defects and 38 non-critical defects, which inspection teams took immediate action to correct and repair.
Inspections of crude oil tank cars and the rail tracks they travel along are essential to maintaining the public safety and protecting all New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo said. We will continue to work with our partners at the state and federal level to strengthen rail safety standards, increase response times and improve emergency preparedness.
Freight rail tracks support commerce and play a major role in businesses choosing to locate in New York State, New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said. Its critical to our transportation system and our economy that we ensure our rail infrastructure remains safe and efficient, and Governor Cuomo has shown his deep commitment to making this happen.
Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration surveyed crude oil tankers at the CSX Corporation-owned Selkirk Yard in Selkirk (Albany County), Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo (Erie County), and the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany (Albany County).
The inspections focused on track, track hardware and tank car mechanical safety equipment, including wheels and brakes. The teams also performed hazardous materials inspections to ensure that equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, valve closures, and placards that indicate the cargo being shipped. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.
The inspectors examined CSX mainline track between Macedon (Wayne County) and Warners (Onondaga County), between Tappan (Rockland County) and Milton (Ulster County), between Kingston (Ulster County) and Selkirk (Albany County), and between North Chili (Monroe County) and Macedon. They also examined track at Canadian Pacifics Kenwood Yard in Albany.
During the inspections, two types of defects are identifiedcritical and non-critical. Critical defects identify important maintenance issues that must be addressed immediately, but do not necessarily indicate safety lapses. Non-critical rail defects must be repaired within 30 days, while all tank car defects must be fixed before the train departs the yard. If that is not possible, the affected car must be pulled from the train to await repair.
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 11,591 rail cars (including 9,583 crude oil tank cars) and 3,916 miles of track, uncovered 1,496 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
Selkirk – At the Selkirk Yard, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 107 crude oil tank cars and found no defects. Department of Transportation hazardous materials inspectors examined 114 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.
Frontier At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration examined 112 crude oil tank cars and found five non-critical defects, including worn or broken brake shoes and an inoperative door latch on a locomotive door. Department of Transportation hazmat inspectors examined 112 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.
Kenwood At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration examined 96 crude oil tank cars and found four non-critical defects, including worn brake shoes, a missing knuckle pin, overdue calibration, and roller bearing wear plate that was not in the correct position.
Track Inspection Results
CSX Mainline Track Inspection Macedon to Warners Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 60 miles of track and 1 switch along the CSX mainline between Macedon and Warners and found one critical joint defect, a missing bolt, which was repaired immediately.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection Tappan to Milton Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 51 miles of track and nine switches along the CSX mainline between Tappan and Milton and found five non-critical defects, including loose bolts, a loose switch point stop and missing cotter pins.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection Kingston to Selkirk Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 43 miles of track and five switches along the CSX mainline between Kingston and Selkirk and found 14 non-critical defects, including an insecure switch heel; loose and missing fasteners on guard rails, loose and missing switch bolts, missing cotter pins, a loose switch point stop, and an improper emergency notification sign at a crossing.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection North Chili to Macedon Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 51 miles of track and 39 switches along the CSX mainline between North Chili and Macedon and found two critical defects, including a spike between the base of the rail and the tie plate, and a guard defect at a switch guard, which were repaired immediately. They also found four non-critical defects, including loose bolts, missing cotter pins and an insufficient number of fasteners on a segment of track.
Kenwood Yard Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately two miles of track and 26 switches at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany and found one critical defect, a worn switch point, which was repaired immediately. They also found six non-critical defects, including loose or missing bolts, switch plates, rail joints and adjustable braces, and a section of track with fouled ballast.
Following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil by rail, New York State has taken a series of aggressive actions to improve the safety and reliability of the practice.
Last year, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Transportation and Health, along with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the Energy Research and Development Authority conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness for crude oil shipments. The agencies issued a report in April 2014 containing 27 recommendations for state government, federal government and industry to take to reduce risks and increase public safety in the transport of crude oil.
To date, state agencies have begun to implement all 12 state government recommendations and have completed five. Specifically, New York State has taken 66 actions to better prepare state and local responders in the event of a crude oil incident as detailed in a December 2014 progress report.
In addition, Governor Cuomos 2015 Opportunity Agenda and the 2015-16 New York State Budget included several measures to further prevent and prepare for potential crude oil incidents. These include providing the necessary funding for staff and associated preparedness costs by increasing the Oil Spill Fund cap to $40 million from $25 million and allowing up to $2.1 million of the Fund annually to be used for prevention and preparedness measures. These changes support compliance with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 125, which outlines steps the state is taking to improve oil spill response and prevention.
The state budget provided for eight new employees at the Department of Environmental Conservation and six at the Office of Fire Protection and Control dedicated to oil spill planning, training and response. The budget also increased fees for oil transported through New York to 13.75 cents per barrel from 12.25 cents for oil imported into the state, and 1.5 cents for transshipped oil, irrespective of whether the oil remains in New York or is transferred on to another state. In-state end users will be exempted from the fee increase and will remain at 12.25 cents per barrel.
Governor Cuomo also initiated the hiring of five new Department of Transportation rail safety inspectors, which has allowed the Department of Transportation to increase its capacity to perform rail safety inspections across the state.
Other state actions include:
Urging federal authorities to revise design specifications and expedite the phase-out of older, unsafe rails cars; implement more stringent standards to test crude oil; and review the routing of crude oil to ensure the most appropriate routes; Issuing fines to companies that fail to comply with state regulations related to derailments; and Calling on federal authorities to expedite and strengthen rail safety standards and increase inspections.
State and emergency response officials also participated in more than two dozen training exercises last year to better prepare our communities for potential crude oil disasters.